The Rolling Stones, ‘Hamburg 2017’ (No Label)
Disc 1 – Intro / Sympathy for the Devil / It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll / Tumbling Dice / Out of Control / Just Your Fool / Ride ‘Em on Down / Play With Fire / You Can’t Always Get What You Want / Dancing With Mr. D / Under My Thumb / Paint It Black / Honky Tonk Women / Band Introductions / Slipping Away / Happy (78:46)
Disc 2 – Midnight Rambler / Miss You / Street Fighting Man / Start Me Up / Brown Sugar / Satisfaction / Gimme Shelter / Jumping Jack Flash – Rehearsals at Stadtpark, Hamburg, Germany 7th September 2017 -Play With Fire / Dancing With Mr. D / Under My Thumb (75:36)
At the announcement of the Stone’s latest, greatest hits tour, the universally loved (Ahem!) ‘No Filter’ tour, I’m sure I felt the ground shake, maybe it was the internet though as our favourite septuagenarians rode in to town again, that long, long, long awaited new album still no where to be seen but ‘Blue and Lonesome’ proving a very welcome distraction.
This was going to be the last in a lifetime chance to see the gang, surely – They’d gone as far as they could from home and now, like a reverse decreasing circle, they were coming back to leave their war boots at the door, ready to settle in to grandfatherly duties. Except, they weren’t. Not for them the chance of settling down with a copy of the Master and the Margarita in the British sun for that solitary week when it arrives, no, Mr. Brexit and the unavailability of any good venues put the apparent kibosh on them drawing closer to home and like sun-dried vultures, they circled around Europe instead, the part of the continent that hadn’t completely lost it’s shit over it’s media driven tendencies and gave the fans what they’d been wanting – Another Stones tour.
Beginning in Germany – The country that had sharpened up the Beatles for worldwide success and excess – the 14 date tour kicked off at the Stadtpark in Hamburg in the late Summer – Still shirt-sleeve weather but just before it was time to think scarf again (Though there would be one on the march stand lest you shouted yourself hoarse through the war horses.)
Expectation was high for the setlists but you didn’t need to draw up a pentagram to call up the devil and ask him to try guess upon what the Stones were going to drop. A static, maybe, but classic romp, staggering through the years, touching upon the 80’s, forgetting the 90’s and patting down the dust on ‘A Bigger Bang’, lets not bring that up again, the aim is to entertain but still ensure that we’re still relevant to these wax-packing, skinny jeaned, kids who would practically go blue in the face if you were to mention that you’re a ’Steel Wheels’ fan.
Thus the show began with ’Sympathy For The Devil’, a warily extended intro that’s standard for it’s live outings and it’s shuddering tickleish beat prodding the audience for a wave of anticipation. One of the initial fears of the audience soon became apparent at the point of the solo however and the non-signing of Mick Taylor’s contract to come tour was noted – Keith was not ‘On Fire’, rather he ballsed up his chance to shine rather fiercely slapping down a clumsy and achingly awkward solo. Thankfully, if slightly unfortunately, it’s the only time that Keith made it so badly that night – Ronnie moves in to place soon after and, as a cleaner, brighter, daddier Wood, his sense of purpose has been renewed, the fact that he seems to take every chance that’s handed to him these days to play guitar (Or paint), his hands are always full it seems (Especially with two young twins to contend with too) and that’s just the juice he needs to bring the magic.
Ensuring that the show wasn’t a deep rooted facsimile of it’s older self, ‘Play With Fire’, a song that hasn’t been played for a while, is launched only a couple of songs prior to another long missed classic, ‘Dancing With Mr. D’. The former, wistfully played would have sounded pretty damn cool played in the European sun and levels a great introduction in to ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’, which itself, despite some pretty shonky guitar soloing from Ronnie (I can only assume it was undecided at show time who was actually going to play the solo and so it came down to the line), the latter receives a much more unanimous response to it’s appearance – Daryll, Chuck and Sasha’s swooping vocals making up for Mick Taylor’s absence (Though there are some pretty damn cool guitar lines threaded throughout too.)
‘Under My Thumb’ won the popular vote tonight (There were very few rarities in there to be chosen from to be honest though – If the theme is continue, why not give us the chance to really test you guys? brown in a choice of curveballs and lets see you prove your chops again!). I do have to wonder what has happed to ‘Paint It Black’ however, the mystic Eastern strings that underline the coda where the sitar once was are just a little too on the nose for me and lessen the power of the track.
Keith’s set is a good one. A mixture of great tracks for his two song solo act – ‘Slipping Away’ and ‘Happy’ – One is tender song for swingin’ lovers, the other a chance to pogo around – The slightly slower performances of each of these songs giving a bit more space to Keith’s voice, his vocals sounding stronger than previous years at the helm.
It’s after this break that you know what you’re getting, the war horses spring to life – I must mention, again, he pace of the songs – ‘Midnight Rambler’ benefits from a slower speed at times, here the differences between the panther like encroachment as Mick stalks the stage eyeing up his prey ready for the capture and the resulting tightening of the nerves, getting ready to pounce, is a welcome match and this ending is perfect – There’s nary a dropped chord, the thrill of the acceleration is palpable, while it’s no ’73 hot comet, it’s no drab display of money raking apathy either.
Neither is ‘Street Fighting Man’, it’s propulsive power-chord opener easing it’s way in via your legs, through to your stomach and out of your mouth with a grin, the whole is a full mean of it’s parts, though the ending collapses, half wan to it’s knees after all it’s energy has been spent.
By the time we reach, ‘Satisfaction’, the crowd are suitably psyched and presumably beer’d up enough to shout along, the feeling is palpable by now and, while Keith is a little unsteady on his feet by now (There’s a relative kind of solo but no doubt he’s right at the front winking to the girls at the front) there’s no going to be a dry eye or quiet call in the house.
‘Gimmie Shelter’ is a paler comparison of what it was – This isn’t because of the lack of any Lisa – who I know hold my hands up for and do admit I miss, neither is it any fault of Sasha’s but some of the guitar work on show is unavoidably at odds with itself and lumpier than the mash on Keith’s shepherds pie. ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ tails the show – A slow burn, pace steady rendition of the song (With a horn lne at the end that caught my ear as sounding like ‘Aladdin Story’), slightly disappointing as a finale for it’s speed but obviously chosen to wrong foot people as the grand end to the show. Maybe it’s the lack of visuals but it doesn’t kick me in the seat of the pants as much as I’d have liked it to.
The CD set is topped off with an audience recording from outside the venue two days before – Nothing new or furiously exciting that we didn’t get anyway during the show but – because we’re outside – it has the sound of being recorded off air from a transistor radio during the families card game. ‘Play With Fire’ is much truncated, ‘’Dancing With Mr. D’ and ‘Under My Thumb’, well, lets just call them prosperity.
Going back to the main set, the sound is great – Easily acceptable, a nice stereo surround, Mick’s vocals slightly higher in the mix and a blend of audience noice that’s just right. If you were able to attend the show or missed out, want a memento of the tour, want to collect them all, I see no reason for dismissing this CD. I’ve still to check out the rest of the tour however and so I will defer you to those comments before I send you to your dealer.